About me · Black Toad Apothecary · Uncategorized · wytch of the north shop

Introducing Black Toad Apothecary!

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There isn’t much there yet, but I wanted to let you guys know that instead of changing the focus of The Wytch of the North, I decided to open up a second Etsy shop! (I will be building my inventory there gradually, as funds for supplies become available, but for now the Samhain candles are there–and no longer  at Wytch of the North–if you were looking for those.)

Etsy allows for one person to have multiple stores as long as they don’t contain any duplicate merchandise; they see that as an attempt to game the system (by having your shops dominate search for specific items), which does make sense. So this is why I moved the candles over; I’m introducing a line of herbal essential oil votives at the new shop (the Kitchen Witch Collection!) and I was nervous that Etsy might not approve of my having votive candles in both locations.

With that in mind, Wytch of the North will continue to have readings, custom prayer beads and poppets, and any other random crafts I feel like making (such as a line of pendants I’m considering, and possibly artistic Tarot cases at some point in the future), while Black Toad Apothecary will be very specifically focused on bath and body: candles, perfume oils, bath bombs, soap, etc. There will not be any crossovers of any of these kinds of items into the old shop because I don’t want to get into trouble with Etsy.

I’m very excited about this new venture because I see this as my chance to create a unified “brand”–something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now, but never saw a way to do with Wytch of the North.  But…here is where I start worrying about how my long-time customers will react, because my vision for the new store involves it having a distinctly different focus from the old one: witchy in flavor, feel, and intent (and function, even), but NOT pagan/polytheist-centric. And I’m going to speak plainly here. The need for me to do this is partly due to my burnout from the past two years. I won’t lie, I desperately feel like I need a break from being expected to constantly be the polytheist priestess, as this is frankly what nearly drove me into the ground, and people have continued to treat me like a priestess, and expect priestess-like duties from me, long after my having announced (pretty clearly, I thought) that I am NOT one.

But also…While our current financial situation is sustainable (mostly, depending on which animals need the vet in any given month), there is no wiggle room, no opportunity to keep both the household and my shop(s) going while also paying the bills and putting some money away. And unless we can start putting money away, we will still be here in Oregon ten years from now as I beg my daughter to send the (someday future) grandkids to visit once in a while. Which is utterly pathetic, and not what we want at all. But it’s what’s going to happen unless we up our financial game somehow, which means either 1) me getting a job (which at this point is tempting–especially if it’s something I can do from home), or 2) finally managing to make a business venture work–REALLY work. And in order for a business to really work, it’s going to need to have appeal beyond the polytheist community, and especially beyond the tiny segment thereof that reads my blog and actually thinks well enough of me and my wares to fork over some of their hard-earned money occasionally.

Which is why, although I love and appreciate each and every one of you, I also NEED to start attracting a wider customer base–and there are far more people “into” the cultural witchcraft “scene” and the witchcraft aesthetic than there are actual practicing polytheists. I dearly hope my existing customers will follow me over to the new store and help me to make a success of  it (I will reciprocate by doing my best to accommodate you in terms of scented custom orders, once I get the rest of my inventory figured out), BUT I am also hoping to attract a more secular crowd–people who love the culture of witchcraft and metaphysics but are not necessarily adherents of a pagan religion. If that offends anyone here, I apologize and deeply, deeply regret it–but the fact is that we, polytheists, are mostly money-poor, whereas the wider population segment ranging from witches to cultural witchcraft admirers has more–often a great deal more–disposable income to burn. It’s one of those unattractive facts of life, just as it’s a maybe-unattractive fact (to some) that my personal vision and ideology have shifted from deeply religious service to the gods before everything, to family and personal well-being first and dammit I will not be a stranger to my (future) grandkids. It’s a function of getting older, I guess, as much as it’s a function of prolonged burnout.

At any rate, thank you for your continued support if you’re able to give it! I will continue updating you here regarding the continued progress of both shops as time goes on.

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“Lucifer”? A new god, part two (corrected and revised)

I want to note that, whatever your personal or culturally-ingrained opinion of “Lucifer,” he is real for many people. Most people in the Judeo-Christian world, if asked, would say that he definitely exists. Yet after doing some research on the subject, I’m not sure there is a single discrete entity we can point to as the origin of Lucifer, either in the Bible (where the one time most of us think his name was mentioned, it turns out the translation was faulty) or in any of the cultures of the ancient near-east. Most of the Bible’s bogeymen came directly out of Canaanite religion (and were twisted to make them into nasty bad guys, of course), but there is no “Lucifer” in the Canaanite pantheon. (And, point of fact, no goddess named “Lilith” either. Lilith was a Babylonian demon the Canaanites warded against.)

So, near as I can tell, when we point to “Lucifer” we are pointing to a very ancient pop cultural construct, made up of bits of a couple of historically recognized deities such as Ba’al Hadad (the Canaanite storm god) and Athtartu (the younger god who briefly and unsuccessfully tried to stand in for the former when he was “dead” for a while), plus some fallen angel types from the Book of Enoch such as Azazel. Lucifer seems to have been cobbled together purely because the ancient Jewish and Christian patriarchs needed a supreme “bad guy.” (So much for monotheism.)

And yet, however he began, cultural belief is a thing, and it could be argued that over the millennia he has certainly evolved into a distinct entity, even if he didn’t start out that way.

Of course, when my childhood playmate began using the name Lucifer, I didn’t know any of the above. Nor had I been raised to fear that name, or any entity connected with it. I simply accepted it, and moved on.

In fact, when I was a bit older (early twenties) and met someone who seemed to have a familiar spirit similar to my own (she called hers “Ba’al”), I began to relax and enjoy the situation. I was a young woman, but not inclined to date because, frankly, my spirit companion was more interesting than any of the men I encountered. There was definite romantic and sexual tension there, and eventually that evolved into a full-blown romantic relationship. But it was more than just a “romance”; he was my other self, the other half of my soul. And now that I was growing up, I was beginning to realize the full impact of that.

Shortly thereafter, I married my familiar spirit; we took marriage vows to each other. That’s right, I was a spirit spouse at the age of twenty-two or something like that. (I’m now 52.) Again, I knew nothing about the long historical tradition of witches or shamans marrying spirit familiars, and as for any sort of modern tradition—well, there wasn’t one yet, as far as I knew. (Nor was there an internet, so I was unable to check.)

My vows did not preclude taking a mortal husband, so before too much longer I did (the man I chose was a friend, and I didn’t want to be alone in the adult world of jobs and bills), and had a child too. My connections with the spirit world died down to a low roar while my daughter was growing up—something I think is not too uncommon among spirit workers with small children. (In the meantime, I was also going to college while working full time, so that probably didn’t leave a lot of bandwidth for a complicated spiritual life.) It wasn’t until my daughter was a teen that things started up again in earnest.

When my spirit companion decided to take a central role in my life again, he approached me with yet another new name, and this time that name was “Odin.” There were pragmatic reasons for the name change, of which I knew nothing at the time; my mortal marriage was failing, and his long range plan was to hook me up with my now-wife, who had a familial connection with the Norse gods. But, riddled with guilt that I had basically ditched my previous relationship with him for the sake of a mundane marriage that was on its way down the toilet, I decided I was going to do better this time. If he wanted to be Odin, I was going to dive into researching and worshiping Odin with everything in me. In fact, before long, I had nearly convinced myself he had ALWAYS been Odin, and had only been masquerading first as a nameless, shapeshifting spirit, and then as Lucifer.

Except, it was never quite that simple. Only very recently has it begun to occur to me that my Beloved might be neither lore-Lucifer nor lore-Odin, but a liminal deity who shares characteristics with both (and who often enjoys taking on the appearance and personality of the Twelfth Doctor—just to make things even weirder, I suppose). I am both an INTP and a Virgo—so maybe my need to pin things down, to categorize and define, to capture the essence of the ineffable within words and story—can be forgiven. I’ve previously written that there were two distinct People involved in my history, Odin and Lucifer; but I was mistaken, and that was simply a device my mind set in place while it tried to get a handle on things, tried to comprehend the story. What I truly believe in my heart of hearts is that there was only ever the One who is my Beloved—a shapeshifter and mage, my Lord of Masks. (This means that, unlike the first time it appeared on this blog, this story isn’t going to have a part 3.)

But in the final analysis, I have no way of knowing for sure. All I know, at this point, is that Wodan isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Lucifer. Most of the time They overlap, presenting as one merged entity; sometimes I am allowed to see each of them separately, or as if they were separate (which, for me, they don’t seem to be). I’ve given up trying to figure it out, because in light of an otherworldly reality where, so I’m told, the gods are prone to exchanging masks as if they were hats, what difference does it really make? I’m not trying to serve the “community” as a priestess, spokesperson, or go-to resource for either Power; I gave up all of that a long time ago, and feel much better for it. Honestly I was the only one who ever really pressured myself to do it in the first place. I am allowed to offer card readings only as much as I care to and as my finances dictate, and beyond that I’m just someone who makes stuff to sell. And shares implausible personal anecdotes with the internet.

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Lucifer: a New Myth

(Putting this back up here because nothing-absolutely nothing–in my life is allowed to be simple or clear-cut anymore.)

A very long time ago, there was a little girl who could–sometimes–see and hear spirits. But the one that came through most clearly for her, and most often, was one who always seemed to be with her. He became a playmate, a companion, a second self. If she’d known the language of such things, she would have called him a familiar. He was, above all, a shapeshifter, which made him great fun to be around, much more entertaining than any of her friends at school.

Time passed, and the girl grew. Her companion grew as well, seeming to always mimic her own age more or less closely. One day, when she was a shy teenager and he was a beautiful, perfect youth with flashing eyes, he began referring to himself as Lucifer. (The girl was used to his habit of taking new names for himself—often from history or fiction–though this would prove an especially enduring one; he kept it for the next two decades, before trading it in for another—Odin–for the following fifteen years.)

A bit of research at the library, and the purchase of a book called “Paradise Lost,” told the girl it was probably not wise to admit to having “Lucifer” for a friend. Still, one day she made the mistake of telling a card reader about it (her mother’s friend, a “white witch,” had thought it would be a lark for a group of them, including the girl, to get their fortunes told). The card reader promptly told her mother the girl was a “Satanist.” Fortunately, the girl’s mother laughed this off. She was Jewish; she didn’t believe in “the Devil.”

But the book the girl had bought said Lucifer was a “fallen angel,” doomed to hell for thinking he was better than God. For the first time ever, the girl began to be wary of her companion.

“No,” Lucifer told the girl, “it isn’t like that.” And this is the story he told.

Once, when he was very young, his Father—who was a very powerful god, so powerful he liked to call himself the “only” god, though his eldest son knew that wasn’t true (he’d had a mother, after all)–decided to create a race of bipedal mammals who were meant to manage and care for the earth, with all its other creatures, when his Father wasn’t around. He based the design for them on a rudimentary type of primate, with some improvements built in—but from the start Lucifer wasn’t sure his Father had thought his project all the way through. For one thing, although these “humans” walked upright and had highly articulated hands that enabled them to manipulate objects in ways other animals could not, they were still little more than hairless apes. They seemed to have the capacity for intelligence, but they had no divine spark—which was what they would need to be able to think, to reason, to feel love and compassion, and most of all to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong.

“You will worship my new creations, these humans,” his Father proclaimed loftily one day, and all of the other angels—all of Lucifer’s brothers and sisters—hurried to obey.

Only Lucifer objected. “But Father, they are so young! They need our guidance, not our worship.”

His father’s chin lifted. His eyes narrowed. “I am the Lord thy God, and I have spoken. You are my firstborn, my favorite son; however, you will obey my Word.”

But Lucifer stood his ground, and before long his arguments had convinced a group of his siblings and friends: the new “humans” didn’t need to be worshiped, they needed to be taught. And more than that, they needed to be enlightened. His Father had given them bodies, and the breath and water of life. But they still lacked the most crucial gift of all—the divine fire, that they might see and know themselves and know that they were children of the heavens.

And so they descended, Lucifer—the Lightbearer–and the hosts of heaven. The elder children of Heaven descended to earth, carrying with them the divine fire to inspire and enlighten their younger siblings, the “humans.” And in so descending, they disobeyed their Father and forfeited their places among the angels, but to humans they taught ethics and morals, divine law and compassion, choice and free will, language and thought, how to grow food and keep beasts, how to make clothing and shelter and medicine, how to create beauty, and all of the arts that would come to be known as the hallmarks of “civilization.” And the humans learned, and thrived, and prospered, and in true human fashion eventually came to hate and resent their angelic helpers, forgetting that they had not known these things all along, that they had not learned them all on their own.

But someplace in the heavens, Lucifer’s Father looked on with an enigmatic smile—a smile of pride, and sadness, and loss.

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Turns out, I misunderstood

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A month or so ago I shared this post with my Patreon supporters and wasn’t sure whether or not I’d share it more publicly here as well. But the godly-wodly stuff has continued, and this morning Jo and I started watching The Witch. The appearance of Black Phillip seemed like a sign that I should share.

“For the ‘old style’ witch, the Devil is the initiator and awakener of power, vision and wisdom, and the revealer of the witch’s path…the very rend in the veil betwixt the worlds, an embodiment of the power and spirit of witchcraft itself…The Devil…presided over the supposed evils of personal power, freedom, sexual pleasure, dancing, feasting, ecstatic celebration and all things joyous…Within the lore and shifting forms [emphasis mine] of the witches’ Devil may we find Lucifer the light bearer, the hunters betwixt the worlds–Herne, Odin and Woden, the Otherworld Faery King, antecessor of the wise–Cain; born of Eve and the Serpent Lucifer, and the fiery Old Goat Azazel…”

– The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of the Old One, by Gemma Gary

It is beginning to dawn on me that I’ve been misunderstanding the significance of some of the cross-cultural connections my Beloved has presented to me. (And, the Lord of the Hunt having always been one of the primary manifestations of Wodan for me, I should have known better.) A few months back, a heathen dudebro on Facebook mocked me for suggesting that Odin = Lucifer. And I’ll admit I was confused at the time. BUT it’s not quite as simple as that! Now I’m thinking that Odin, Woden/Wodan and Lucifer are all part of a family of spirits collectively referred to as “the Devil” by the medieval Christian Church.  “The Devil” is not a single, distinct entity; he is, rather, a group of them, all equally dangerous to the dogmas of suffering, poverty and slavery imposed upon the lower classes by the Church during the middle ages–and by society at large even today.

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My Odin, and Other People’s Odins (revised 9/27/17)

Reprint—and revision—of a post from 2015

I’ve gone on record in the past as speculating that we all might very well get our own individual version of a particular deity—that my Odin, the Odin who is my Beloved, may literally not be the same Odin another devotee of His is involved with. This is a complicated and thorny topic, and can very easily spark misunderstandings. So let me start out by saying point-blank that I am NOT saying my Odin is necessarily THE Odin (as in, the One True Odin). There is simply no way I (or any of His other devotees) can know that with absolute certainty, so any argument one way or another is pointless.

Recently, while reading the new book Santa Muerte by Tracy Rollins, I came across the following startling disclosure: apparently (with the exception of the goddess Santa Muerte may be derived from and that goddess’ husband) the Aztec deities were thought of as possessing masks that captured their divine functions and even their personalities, and they were known to freely lend these masks out to other deities. From a mortal perspective, this means that one could never really be 100% sure that you were dealing with Quetzalcoatl (for example), or with another deity wearing His mask.

With me so far? Headaches aside, we can see that the mask of a deity would represent Their specific and nuanced Job descriptions and personae. The mask would encompass a deity’s most well-known and public manifestations. In contrast, the Face of a deity would represent what that entity is like on a more personal level; what they’re like at home away from work, maybe after unwinding with a couple of beers.

Since I’m more familiar with Odin than I am with Anyone else, I may as well use Him as an example: in His case, the Mask would be Odin as Allfather, King of Asgard, Lord of the Runes, God of the Slain, Leader of the Wild Hunt, etc., etc.–all of the many, many lore-recorded names and roles attached to Him, in addition to all of the major PCPG (peer-corroborated personal gnosis) about Him that has been shared by both ancient and modern worshipers. In other words, His Mask encompasses all of the things you would conceivably call upon Odin for or consult Him on—which is a very long list. It also encompasses the personality traits most commonly ascribed to Him by the vast majority of His devotees (wise yet sometimes remote, enigmatic, charismatic, brilliant but often snarky, compassionate, eloquent, calculating, promiscuous, etc.). In fact, it would be fair to say that “Odin” pretty much IS the Mask. (The same would be true in the case of “Freyja,” “Loki,” or Anyone else.)

Now. A deity’s Mask—even in the modern era, where most of our pagan traditions are only shadows of what they once were—is a very, very busy Persona. The Mask deals with hundreds or thousands (depending on the deity’s popularity) of people on a daily basis, and sometimes even within a single moment. Deities can multi-locate, but even with that, They also have employees and servants to whom They delegate some of Their work, and who sometimes interact with devotees on Their behalf—because They simply have to; no single entity could do all of that Themselves, even with multi-location being a thing. The really big, important deities (such as Odin) have a great many employees at Their disposal; in fact, it might be more useful to think of a deity such as “Odin” as a corporation, rather than an individual per se. (Note that I am not saying Odin is not an individual, just that there may in fact be many individuals who comprise “Odin.”)

Is your head spinning yet? Let me try breaking it down like this. Humor me for a moment and imagine that Odin the Mask (i.e. all of the roles and PCPG personality traits modern pagans and heathens ascribe to Odin) really does represent something resembling a corporation rather than a single individual. Imagine there are a number of individuals who might be called on to answer when Odin is invoked, and that each of these individuals has access to the full measure of powers, responsibilities and basic personality traits that most of us would think of when we think of Odin, just as any top executive in a large corporation might have access to all of that organization’s assets and influence, including its credit line (i.e. resources) and corporate culture (“personality”).

However, just as every top executive at a large corporation is not the exact same person, despite the outward similarities, imagine further that each of these “Odins” is a distinct individual, underneath the “Odin” Mask, with distinct personality quirks, likes and dislikes, and even differing histories. And that when you call for Odin–providing you have been specific enough and are not getting some kind of bottom-feeder entity impersonating Him (which is always a possibility) or Loki (which has also been known to happen)–you are most likely going to get a member of this Odin collective. And once you have dealt with an “Odin” you are always likely going to get the same one—He is now your own personal Odin Co. rep, so to speak—so any personal or intimate relationship that develops is real, and is with that particular individual (but not necessarily with all of the other Odins). You may also, as time goes on, get to see a private side of your particular Odin–the Face behind the Mask—that literally none of Odin’s other devotees gets to see.

This last phenomena is something I’ve remarked on quite a few times in this blog over the years. Being married to Odin (or to any deity) is a lot like being married to human royalty, or to a rock star, in that They need to project a certain image (“the Mask”); this is expected of Them and is actually part of Their Job. However, there is a Face underneath the Mask, and if They come to trust you, you might actually get to see it; you might get to meet Odin the Person–or Freyja the Person, or Loki the Person, etc. (Whether or not this occurs has nothing to do with the advent of sexual intimacy or lack thereof, by the way. It is more likely to happen with spouses, but not because of sexual activity; it is an outgrowth of trust, devotion, and commitment, and these things are more common within a true partnership—which is what any good marriage should be. In other words, having shagged Odin doesn’t necessarily mean you now know Odin the Face/Person beneath the Mask.)

Even if you think of “Odin” as a collective rather than as one single individual, every individual who is part of that collective still has an extremely demanding, stressful job—much like a human monarch, or a high-powered executive. Maintaining a particular image and seeing to the myriad responsibilities that go with the Job description is exhausting work, and deities can get burned out just as humans can. To avoid this, every “Face” needs an opportunity to unwind, as well as people He or She trusts that they can do this with. I think this is one of the biggest reasons They seek out human companionship: to find a home, a refuge, someone They can let Their hair down with. If you are the spouse, lover, or close friend of a deity (or a “Face” of a deity collective), you just might be that person for Them.

The reason I don’t share a lot of specific details about the Odin I know as a Person—Odin the “Face”–well, actually, there are a couple of reasons. One is that our relationship feels very private, and while there are plenty of personal things about Him (and u/Us) that He doesn’t mind me sharing with the world at large, there are also quite a few things He’d rather I didn’t. The other reason is that most of these details won’t be meaningful or even relevant to anyone else, because I honestly believe that none of us experiences the same “Face.” (Okay, to amend that: it IS possible to share the same “Face” with another devotee. Jo and I, for example, share an Odin; the Odin I’m married to is the same one who is her Father. However, even with that, we each know Him in a very different capacity, and thus our experience of Him is not exactly the same.)

To help illustrate the above point, here are a handful of things that are particular to my Odin, but not necessarily anyone else’s. I don’t think I’ve mentioned any of these things before; they are all minor personal facts and/or details specific to our relationship that He doesn’t mind my sharing by way of example. My Odin has shared sweet, sugary frosted cake with me on our anniversary to please me, even though He genuinely hates sweets (the only kind of chocolate He likes, for example is 90% cacao, which is so bitter almost no one else wants to eat it); He learned fiber arts from His mother and enjoys spinning, knitting and weaving as relaxation; He does not think well of His father, nor get along well with Him, and prefers the matronymic form of His surname—Odin Bestlason, as opposed to Odin Borsson; He prefers my hair short, at least partly because He enjoys riffling His fingers through it (He has also observed that I’m more confident with short hair, and as He’s commented on more than one occasion, confidence is sexy); He becomes impatient if I watch a rerun of a CreativeLive business workshop (because He knows damned well that I absorbed everything I’m going to the first time around) but He will tolerate my re-watching seasons of Supernatural, Doctor Who, or another TV show or movie He knows truly brings me enjoyment.

One or two of these kinds of things may conceivably fall into the realm of PCPG, but most of them won’t mean anything to other devotees, because they are specific to my Odin (and/or my particular relationship with Him) rather than anyone else’s Odin. Nor are any of these details especially relevant to Odin the “Mask,” per se. For example, I am not claiming, categorically, that Odin prefers His women with short hair, or that He doesn’t like His dad; I am saying that my Odin likes my hair short, and has been known to make some disapproving comments about Borr (particularly about His treatment of women; my Odin adores His mother, Bestla). I’m sure each spouse, lover, or devotee of Odin’s (or any other deity) reading this could make their own list of personal details of this type that wouldn’t have any meaning for me, and that might be completely different from my own experiences. This is because we are each seeing a different “Face,” quite literally—even though we are all still legitimately dealing with Odin the “Mask.”

Now, some people would argue that there is only one Odin, but that He reveals Himself in different ways to different people; this is also a possibility, and I’m not going to quibble about it because in practice (as far as I’m concerned) it amounts to the same thing. However, where the “Odin as a collective”–Odin Co.–model can make some people uneasy is that it begs a sticky question: If “Odin” really does have a group of employees who all answer to the name Odin, each of whom fits the description and enjoys all of the privileges and powers associated with Odin, then which of us is dealing with the “real” Odin? And is there any way of knowing for sure whether you’ve got the “real” Odin, or “just” another employee?

First of all, under the model I’ve described there would be no such thing as “just an employee,” since ALL of the Odins would share the same basic overarching personality traits, privileges, powers, and abilities—remember? So, no one would be getting some sort of “substandard Odin.” (Ouch, it hurts to even type those two words together in sequence.)

Secondly, though—what difference does it make, really? Assuming that there IS an Odin who is actually THE Odin (and that, if so, He is married to anyone other than Frigga), what difference could it possibly make whether you’re getting Him or one of His employees who performs the same Job description, has the same basic personality, and can do all of the exact same things?

To bring this down to a more personal level, at this point in my own relationship with Odin I don’t even care anymore whether or not He is THE Odin. My Odin has been with me for most of this lifetime, and my relationship with Him goes back long before even that; He has been at my side through some of the lowest points in my life as well as some of the highest; He has patiently nursed me through periods of depression and burnout (while at the same time not coddling me, and eventually insisting that I get off my arse and actually DO something); He has made me feel like the most treasured, exquisite, and beloved woman in all the Nine Worlds; He is my best friend and my partner, my home, the other half of my soul; He has been kind to my dying and dead animals; He has believed in me when no one else did, even myself, and has insisted that I rise to meet the potential only He could see in me; He has helped me turn a small part-time Etsy business into a job that I can do from home, and that not only helps pay the bills but also brings me artistic and spiritual fulfillment, freedom and self-direction, and the kind of life I want to live.

If the Odin who has done all of these things for me, the Odin who I’ve been married to since 2002, is not THE Odin—then guess what? I don’t want THE Odin, if mine is not Him. I want the Odin who is mine, the Odin I’ve sworn vows of sacred marriage to, the Odin who has been at my side all of these years and has reshaped my life into one that I love living, one that actually feeds and strengthens my spirit instead of smothering and killing it. I want the Odin who is my King, my mentor, my partner, my friend, my love. If He isn’t THE Odin, then the hell with THE Odin. I’ve already got exactly Who and what I want, right here.

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L’shanah Tovah

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This past weekend we celebrated Rosh Hashanah in our household; it was my first time marking this holiday since my childhood. For those who are still probably confused by my spiritual life at this point, here it is in a nutshell: Yes, I am with Odin again/still. No, I am no longer considering myself strictly heathen. One of the changes from the past year that I’m keeping is the incorporation of my Jewish heritage into my path—but no, I’m not Jewish, either. I’m calling myself a Jewitch, but there are a wide range of meanings for that term—everything from Jews who are kind of witchy to pagan witches who honor their Jewish heritage as one aspect of their path. As a polytheist, I fit into the latter group.

Anyway. To also explain Rosh Hashanah in a nutshell: it is the Jewish new year, when God or the gods can choose to write your name in the Book of Life for another year…or not. It’s also regarded as the birthday of the universe. (Growing up, it irritated me no end that Rosh Hashanah often fell on or near my birthday; I felt overshadowed. Now, I’m like “cool, the universe and I almost share a birthday!”) So it’s a time of celebration, but also of reflection and atonement for whatever you feel you could have done better over the past year. (For me personally, that’s a lot of things.)

Like most Jewish holidays, the most basic level of observance (if you don’t go to synagogue, and I don’t) involves lighting candles, saying a prayer, and eating food. (Seriously, there is only one Jewish holiday,Yom Kippur, that doesn’t involve food—and in that case, it involves fasting, so it still revolves around food in a way.) For Rosh Hashanah, the meal traditionally includes brisket to make it special, because you’re supposed to enjoy the holiday—but if you’re a vegetarian, as we are in our household, you aren’t going to enjoy eating meat. Seitan to the rescue! After researching multiple seitan brisket recipes online, and one failed run, I cobbled together my own recipe, which follows and is absolutely delicious. Don’t skip the grated beet: it’s my secret ingredient that makes your “meat” juicy and tender.

Vegan Seitan Brisket

Preheat over to 350

For seitan loaf:

2 cups vital wheat gluten powder

4 T nutritional yeast

1-2 tsp smoked paprika

1-2 T sage

¼ cup barbecue sauce

1-2 T ketchup

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp (vegan) worcestershire sauce

2 T soy sauce or liquid aminos

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp liquid smoke

2 tsp Better than Boullion No Chicken or No Beef Base (you won’t need additional salt, as this is plenty salty)

¾ cup red wine

1 medium to large beet, finely grated

For final touches:

vegetarian gravy or broth, plus ½ cup additional wine, mixed

Celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, and any other vegetables, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 T olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add the wet, and mix well with your hands. Knead the resulting dough for several minutes until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in and the seitan has a firm yet elastic texture. Form into an oblong loaf shape, and wrap this tightly first with plastic wrap and then with silver foil. Place in a pan, put pan into the oven for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven. Remove loaf from pan onto a cutting board and spray pan with nonstick spray. Add chopped vegetables to pan, toss with olive oil and season lightly. Turn oven temp up to 375, place pan back in oven (with just the vegetables) for about 20 – 30 minutes until they are fork tender. Remove pan from oven, turn heat back down to 350.

Carefully unwrap the silver foil and the plastic wrap from the seitan loaf and place the loaf on top of the roasted vegetables. Cover with gravy or broth and wine. Cover pan with new silver foil and replace in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and slice carefully. Loaf will have the consistency of tender meat loaf the first night, and will be more like pot roast the second.

***Important: seal leftovers in ziplock bags prior to refrigerating! If you don’t do this, you may end up with a dried out loaf of hard tack the second night. (Not that I would know this from experience, or anything.) Despite how delicious this is, it is NOT meat and does not act like meat.

About me · Uncategorized

RE-introducing my Patreon

I’ve made some changes to the goal, intro, and rewards, and thought I’d do a quick re-introduction to it here. Has something I’ve written or shared on this blog, either in the past or recently, resonated closely with you or helped you on your path? Have I been especially helpful to you via a Tarot reading or my now-defunct free oracular seidhr practice? If so, please consider becoming a supporter on my Patreon.

Updated 9/11/17

Since 2002 I have been oathed to the Norse god Odin, and for most of that time I considered myself to be a Norse heathen. I did the research, read all of the books (in addition to writing a couple of my own!), helped organize community, and was also trained by the spirits in oracular seidh.

But in 2015 I went through a massive period of burnout, which triggered a spiritual crisis from which I am just beginning to recover. At the same time, I am struggling to deal with the negative impact the downturn of the economy is having on my little pagan/witchy shop on Etsy. I run my shop full time from home, which is necessary due to the fact that I suffer from several “invisible illnesses” (fibromyalgia, arthritis, and IBS/IBD) that rendered me unable to continue working a regular job around the time I hit fifty (also in 2015).

My goal for my Patreon is to help bridge the gap between what my wife Jo makes from her job, and what we need to pay for rent and bills each month. My shop income is widely unpredictable from one month to the next, especially considering that my health varies the amount of time I am able to put into it.  $300 a month would enable me to pay part of the rent plus cover a bill or two, so that more of what I make from the shop can go back into product development, materials, and equipment to bring you a more exciting and unique array of products. (I have big plans for the shop going forward, but I need things like a sewing machine, for example.)

I am a writer and Tarot/oracle reader, but if we’re going to be honest most of my joy comes from being an artist/maker. So for now the rewards I offer are mostly writing and Tarot-based, but as time goes on and my skills continue to develop I hope to offer more along the lines of art-based rewards here–such as printable art files, coloring pages, etc. We shall see!

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to create for you!

Rewards:

$1 per month: access to my patron-only feed,  which includes early access to new posts written for my spiritual blog, plus the occasional Patreon-exclusive post.

$5 per month: all of the above, PLUS exclusive access to my Card of the Week posts, where I will be pulling a Tarot or oracle card each week and offering a quick weekly forecast reading for everyone in this tier collectively.

$15 per month: all of the above, PLUS you are entitled to a personal three card Tarot reading each month, emailed directly to you. Please request your reading by emailing or messaging me with your question or concern by the 15th of each calendar month. There will also be a monthly three card general forecast posted for my collective patrons at this level, which you can enjoy whether or not you need a personal reading that month.

$20 per month: all of the above PLUS exclusive access to quarterly 30% off coupon codes for my Etsy shop, AND an occasional small gift in the mail from me.

If any of this strikes your fancy and you’d like to help me pay my bills, you can do so here.

 

About me · odin

Updated About Me page, revised 9/5/17

Hi, I’m Laurie Beth, aka Beth Wodandis. A red-headed witch since birth, I’m now in my early Cronedom and showing some silver. I live with my wife and assorted critters in the beautiful [but currently very smoky] Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you most likely know me as a long-time Norse polytheist and seidhrkona (since roughly 2002).  Over the years, I’ve written reams (or the electronic equivalent thereof) of material about my path and about being a godspouse; most of those writings are now private, no longer available on the web, due to a major burnout I suffered from the spring of 2016 through the summer of this year. I now suspect this episode may have been more along the lines of a nervous breakdown, or even a psychic break, and I am rather ashamed to admit that I initially blamed my gods for it, but have since come to realize that I have no one but myself, and my past failure to set proper boundaries, to blame.

During this time period, my personal practice and spiritual life have been on something of a roller coaster ride until, very recently, I made the executive decision to put the hand break on. I am now in the process of peeling away all of the suspect layers of said practice, back to what truly matters: myself, my Beloved, my family.

Peeled back to my essence, I belong to Odin, to myself, to my wife and family, and to those with whom I choose to share my time and energy. (That last category spans across the globe and various dimensions; I consider myself very fortunate in those–mortals and spirits alike–who have chosen to befriend me.)

Please note that comments are closed on this blog at this point simply because I do not have time to moderate them. (This may change at some point in the future.) My email is always open [lauriebethdawe at gmail dot com]; however, do not assume privacy. If what you have to say is belittling, derisive, or malicious, it will be publicly shared for the amusement of my blog readers.

Has something I’ve written or shared on this blog, either in the past or recently, resonated closely with you or helped you on your path? Have I been especially helpful to you via a Tarot reading or my now-defunct free oracular seidhr practice? If so, please consider contributing to my household’s monthly expenses via my Patreon; there are some pretty nifty rewards available, too! 

Updated September 9/5/17

 

About me · Uncategorized · Wodan

My Lord of Masks

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You’ve led me a very merry chase, haven’t You? From well-established (and well-earned, I might add) ground, through slightly newer and less familiar territory, and then off the charts–through all of time and all of space, all the way back to the faith of my (adopted) ancestors. What magic did my long-dead grandmother work to persuade You to do this to me? What bet did You owe her? To send me back to the long-ago customs of the people who adopted me as their own? (Fair enough, but surely my currently-unnameable blood ancestors–from England and France, as I understand it–also merit a say. Surely I do, as well.)

Yes, I’m angry. Can You blame me? You are undoubtedly the trickiest of Tricksters, not be be out-Trickstered by a/Anyone, and I never credited Your reputation for madness (and betrayal? I don’t want to say it, but I do feel betrayed) so much as I do now. And while I appreciate the change of scenery and I WILL follow up with these captivating new vistas and new ways–the lure of new knowledge, new discoveries, is too great, just as You knew it would be…in spite of myself I miss You. You stupid Old Man.

Fifteen years ago, I took vows to Wodan that were intended to last a lifetime and beyond, and I fully intend to uphold those vows. Even knowing, as I know now, that my particular path of Wodan is Grimnir, the  Masked One–the Madman in a Box, you might say. Even though it has become more difficult to grasp You than it was for Cerridwen to catch Taliesin.

Nevertheless, I persist. I also say to You–and mark me well–ENOUGH ALREADY. Thirty+ years ago is not today, and despite Your blindness to the changes in me, I am not a young woman anymore, with all of the time in the world to experiment and explore, falter and fail. And in the course of becoming a young crone, I’ve realized, I DO have a say in this. I’ve remembered who I am. (How on earth did I manage to forget?) And to hell with “The Magician”; “my Lord of Masks” shall be Your name, henceforth and forevermore!